CHAPTER THREE

Ron walked slowly and quietly down the stairs from his room knowing that his mum was just waiting to unload on him. He'd spent the last couple days at George's place, not being able to be in the same place as Hermione knowing now that she didn't love him like he loved her. Unfortunately, he had failed to notify anyone that he was going to apparate to the flat just above Wheezes directly from his room. He was glad George had thought to floo call his family to let them know where Ron was.

Ron realized that even though he hadn't seen her for only 3 days, he missed Hermione. He didn't want to and he tried not to, but he knew that he missed her and would probably never get to speak to her again. That, and the heartbreak had Ron feeling terribly depressed.

He made it to the kitchen, knowing that everybody had already had breakfast and had started their days with the exception of Luna. Luna looked up at Ron and gave him a small smile and said, "good morning, Ronald, it is good to see you home."

Ron looked over and mumbled, "Thanks, Luna."

Heading into the kitchen, Ron raised his hands in surrender and looked his mother in the eyes.

"I'm sorry mum, I'm sorry I left so suddenly, but I just couldn't stay in the same house as her. She ripped out my heart and stomped on it. I panicked and just had to leave, it would have been too hard to just be around her after telling her I loved her and hearing her tell me she didn't feel that way. I know I should have let someone know, and I'm glad George did, but I really feel like crap so, can I just say I'm sorry and you can yell at me another time?"

His mum looked at him with compassionate eyes, recognizing how devastated he was. "Alright Ronnie, I don't need to add to your misery by yelling. I know this was completely unexpected, especially since you and Hermione seemed so close right after the battle, so I accept your apology."

Ron gave a small smile for the first time in forever it seemed and said, "thanks, mum" as he sat down next to Luna.

"It's not too late to get some breakfast is it?" he asked hopefully.

"Of course not, Ronnie, Luna suggested I save you a plate" as she pulled a plate of eggs, sausage, bacon and potatoes out of the warming bin and placed in front of him.

"thanks again, mum."

As Ron ate he glanced at Luna and asked, "so, Luna, are you doing ok?"

"I'm ok, but I've been sad for you and Hermione. You two were such good friends it's sad you aren't anymore. I've been chasing away the wrackspurts and the garden gnomes. I did manage to track down my father. After our house was wiped out he moved to live with a distant cousin in America. I do wish he would have told me, but he said he sent some owls, but they never found me. Now I'm also sad that I don't have a home anymore, but your family has been wonderful for letting me stay here."

"Oh, I'm sorry about you dad and your house."

"Thank you. I'm sure something will work out, it always does. I also have been trying to give Harry and Ginny some space for them to get reacquainted and to rebuild their relationship. Both seem very interested in getting back together, but they have some things to talk about and I think it best if I let them do that on their own. I've also been taking walks by myself around the orchard and to the pond. Now that you're back, maybe you could join me. I find walks very therapeutic when I'm not feeling good about something, or somebody, or even myself. It might be helpful for you."

Ron looked skeptical for a moment and then sort of realized that it would be true. He was sure he wanted to do anything, but he knew that he should.

"That sounds like a good idea, Luna. I'd like that, but right now, I'm feeling really bad about how I left it with Hermione. I basically told her I wasn't her friend anymore and walked away and now I hope that it isn't true. I was just so hurt by her rejection that I just blurted it out like an idiot. I've had time over the last couple days to realize that even if she doesn't love me, I still want to be her friend. We've gone through so much together I'd hate to lose that. It will be hard to see her again, but I think I'll be mature enough to get through it. I just don't know what to do, now that she's off to Australia."

Luna looked up for a moment and then smiled at Ron. "You could write her a letter and then have someone take it to the ministry. They have international post that could work to get a letter to her in Australia."

"Huh, I never thought of that. Thanks Luna, that sounds like a plan." But then Ron's countenance fell again. "You know I'm not that good a writer and I'll probably mess it up somehow even if I do it."

"You'll be fine," replied Luna. "Besides, I can help if you want?"

Ron couldn't help himself as he reached over and hugged Luna. "Oh, Luna, that'd be brilliant. I'd love your help."

Luna conjured up some parchment, ink and a quill and they sat there as they composed a letter to Hermione. Luna did a lot of listening to Ron's emotions and feelings and helping him put those down on parchment. At times Ron was sad, sometimes angry, sometimes hopeful, but Luna stayed through it all with him and after a couple hours they were finished. Basically it was an apology for just walking away and a request to remain friends and a wish for her to find her family and to be happy. Reluctantly Ron also included some words about her finding the love she deserved whoever that may be. Ron wasn't sure how to end it so he looked at Luna and asked, "how do I sign it? Do I say love, or your friend, or sincerely, or what?"

Luna looked at him with compassion and asked, "do you still love her? If you do, you should say love. If you're not sure, you should say your friend."

Ron had to think for a moment. Did he still love her even though she didn't love him back? He wanted to still love her. He had thought he'd loved her since 4th year when he thought she might love him back. He looked at Luna and said quietly, "I don't know."

"Then I would write 'your best friend, Ron' and be done. It's a good letter Ronald."

Ron rolled it up and addressed it to Hermione Granger – Australia and put it on the shelf to give to his father to take to the Ministry tomorrow. He stood and stretched and realized that they'd been sitting for over 3 hours.

He looked down at Luna and held out his hand to her. "Hey, we've been sitting too long, we need to go outside and move around some. Where can we go where we won't have to see my best friend snogging my sister?"

"Harry and Ginny spend a lot of time on their brooms playing Quidditch."

"Ok, so flying is off the table for now. How about we do one of your walks to the pond?"

For the rest of the summer Ron and Luna spent most of their time together. They'd hang out with Harry and Ginny, but a lot of their free time was spent walking, at the pond, or in the orchard, or garden. They spent a lot of time talking about the war and what they'd been through. They talked about growing up and being an only child versus growing up with a big family. Luna mentioned that sometimes she imagined magical creatures just so she'd have someone to talk to and play with. They talked about their hopes and dreams. Ron talked a bit about Hermione and Luna chatted some about Neville and how they both found themselves single and that was ok.

They'd get on their brooms whenever the Quidditch pitch was available although Luna wasn't much of a Quidditch player, but with Ron's help and encouragement she became much more comfortable on a broom. Luna's favorite time on a broom was when she and Ron would share his broom and fly off on an occasional picnic and she rode behind him and got to wrap her arms around him.

At night they'd play gobstones or exploding snap, but Ron especially enjoyed teaching Luna to play chess. She had yet to beat him, or realistically to even come close to beating him, but they enjoyed just being there together. Sometimes they just sat next to each other and read. Ron usually chose something related to Quidditch, Luna was always reading something about nature or animals. A couple times Luna had been able to lay her head down on Ron's lap as she read.

Ron received a letter back from Hermione thanking him for the apology, saying how grateful she was they would still be friends. She had found her family and restored their memories, now she was working on restoring their relationship. She told Ron that she treasured all of their time together and was now realizing how much she missed him. She didn't know how long she would be in Australia, but it seemed her parents wanted to stay and not come back to the UK. Hermione encouraged Ron to write back and share what he was doing for the summer and what plans he had for the fall and that she hoped to see him soon.

One evening in mid August when Luna had her head in Ron's lap, Ron wondered at how comfortable he had gotten with Luna and how much better he knew her now. He knew that she was lonely as a child and that that had led to some of her quirkiness. Ron appreciated her imagination and kicked himself for ever referring to her as 'Loony'.

This evening, Ron looked down at her and asked, "hey Lu, what are you going to do this fall? Are you going back to school? You should be getting your Hogwarts letter any day now."

"Luna dropped her book and looked up surprised. "Lu? Who is this Lu person? I don't know anyone named Lu."

Ron looked at her with a sheepish smile, "uh, sorry, it's just what I call you in my head and it kinda slipped out. I guess it's just a nickname I made up. Sorry, I won't call you that anymore."

Luna smiled and blushed a bit then grabbed Ron's hands and said, "no, I think it's wonderful that you have a nickname for me, it's ok. I don't think I want everyone to call me Lu, but I'm glad that you do. It's sort of fun to have a secret name."

"Ok, cool. Anyway, whatcha got planned for fall?"

"I'm going back to Hogwarts and sit for my NEWTS. I figure it will be good to finish school while I figure out what comes after."

Still holding onto his hands, she asked quietly, "are you going to the Aurors? The thought of you and Harry out fighting more dark wizards sorta scares me."

"Harry and I start training September 1 and go for six months until we graduate on March 1, but don't worry, Harry and I will watch out for each other and we'll be ok. By the time you graduate from Hogwarts, Harry and I will be working Aurors."

That night Ron woke up suddenly to what sounded like screaming coming from across the hall. Jumping up and grabbing his wand, he ran to the source of the noise. He opened the door to Luna's room and saw her in the bed screaming and thrashing about. But her eyes were closed.

"Luna, Luna, you're having a nightmare, wake up!" Ron said as he sat down next to her on the bed and attempted to place his hands on her shoulders. She was moving too quickly for him to really grab on so he laid down next to her and wrapped his arms around her waist and pulled her into him all the while saying calmly, "Luna, Lu, it's ok, I'm here, you're safe, it's ok, Luna, Luna, wake up."

It was hard to hang onto to her at first, but Ron's arms and calming words finally began to take affect as she calmed down and started crying instead of screaming. Ron found that Luna had put her arms around him as well and sobbed into his chest. After a few minutes the sobbing stopped and Luna just whimpered into his chest.

The rest of the Weasleys arrived outside her room and were clamoring about what was going on. Ron looked up at everyone and calmly said, "It's ok, I've got her and it will be ok. I'll take care of her, just everyone calm down and let me deal with this, ok?

Seeing that things were relatively under control they all left except for Molly who remained behind in the hall.

Ron turned back to Luna and asked quietly "Lu, Lu, are you ok? Are you awake? Are you ok?"

Luna sniffed hard and lifted her head to look at Ron. "I'm ok I think, Ronald. I think I'm ok. Just a nightmare, I guess, but it was so real and so terrible." With that she hiccupped and buried her face in Ron's chest again.

Ron looked at his watch as saw it was 2:15 in the morning. "Do you want to talk about it?" he asked softly.

"No, I just need you to hold me, please."

"Ok, give me a sec," Ron said gently as he got up. He looked up at his mom and said, "don't worry, I'll be a gentleman, but she needs me right now, ok?"

Molly reluctantly nodded and headed back to bed.

Ron then lay down next to Luna and climbed under the covers on his back next to her. He slipped his arm around her shoulders and pulled her close to his right side and whispered to her, "is this all right? Do you feel ok?"

Luna just snuggled into Ron with her head on his shoulder and her hand on his chest and mumbled, "hmmmm, yes, thank you Ronald, please don't leave," as she slowly drifted back to sleep.

Ron wondered at how good it felt to have Luna snuggled up next to him. She was soft and warm and she was present. He thought briefly of the times he had had to comfort Hermione after nightmares, but rapidly pushed those thoughts away thinking 'those days are gone,' and instead treasured the pretty blonde there with him. He gently kissed the top of her head and closed his eyes and slipped back into sleep content with Luna right there.

The next morning Ron woke slowly and realized that he was still in bed with Luna with her back up to his chest with his arms around her. Ron always loved being the big spoon with Hermione, and he found Luna to be quite comfortable in his arms as well. He'd always thought Luna was pretty, but never had recognized what a slim, trim figure she had. His left arm was wrapped over the curve of her waist and his hand rested on her flat stomach. Somehow it had slipped underneath her sleep shirt and he couldn't help but slowly caress her. He slowly pulled her tight against him with his right arm and nuzzled her hair as she slept. Ron gave a contented sigh and drifted back to sleep.